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Young People Thinking Hard and Communicating Well

The North American Young Leaders' Conference took place September 3-6 in Deer Park, Pennsylvania, USA. It was a good gathering of 91 young people. Many states of the United States were represented; there was a small contingent from Canada, one representative from Trinidad, and one from Mexico. We also had a few visitors from Ireland and England. Eric Braxton, Keir Simmons, and I led the workshop. I was the overall leader in charge of thinking about the whole of the workshop, and each of us led a couple classes. It turned out to be a wonderful way of getting thinking from different perspectives about what is facing us as a young people's liberation movement. Some brilliant things were said. I was pleased that most of the people present really went after building close relationships with one another.

A lot of the work happened in different caucuses we met in. One afternoon there was a men's caucus and three women's caucuses. Another afternoon we split into groups according to who was teaching and who wasn't. Eric gave the teachers encouragement to build leaders around them and some information about how to go about such a task. Each person talked about successes and struggles they had had teaching. I met with people who hadn't taught yet. I counseled someone on starting a class. A lot of the time was spent giving information and answering questions about how the structure of the Community works, i.e. how one goes about getting a teaching credential or what the difference is between leading a support group and teaching a class. We also met in Wygelian leaders' groups, by Region. The groups had a little more than an hour to meet, and people wished afterwards that they had had more time. It is clear that a main way we are going to organize is by meeting in Wygelian groups.

One of my favorite things that Eric said is, "I think all of us have been lucky to run into this movement. RC is a wonderful place to be -- we know a lot about how young people are oppressed. I think we are on the cutting edge of what will be the biggest movement in the next two centuries: young people's liberation."

"We get smarter and smarter every day through discharge. We have some great tools, but we're afraid to show them. We become afraid to speak in front of large groups. We're worried about caring about anything too much (part of 'coolness'). This is hard on our Community in many ways."

"The young people's RC Communities rely mainly on [young] people who were raised in Co-Counseling or on people who we're not scared to show Co-Counseling to. If you're building a liberation movement, your recruiting strategy shouldn't be to recruit the people who are least scary to you. I think we should rely on a strategy of getting into RC the people who we think will be the best Co-Counseling leaders -- not the people who are the safest to talk to. We are very good and very smart, but we need to be looking for people who are even smarter. I need to be looking for someone who can be doing my job better than me.... I have a program for RC. Every young person that you meet, if they look like they have some attention, invite them to counsel you. The worst thing that could happen is that they will say no. We have very little to lose and a lot to gain. When we decide to stand up and make a difference, to say what we believe, people do join."

One of my favorite things that Keir said is, "The whole school system has been set up to make us conservative -- and not when we're twenty-five or thirty-seven (though then too). Schools are there to make us conservative now. Because now when we're young and we know the world's wrong, that's when we're the most 'dangerous.' You have to send a group of people like that to a school and make them conservative."

Keir also did a panel with the young people from outside the U.S. It was a powerful way of making people from other countries visible at the workshop and of challenging the people from the U.S. to think in new ways. Afterwards, he said, "I was trying to show a part of young people's oppression -- that we don't get told things. We don't get expected to be completely intelligent. So when you're around someone with different experiences from you, you don't know anything. School isn't teaching us anything about young people except how to be conservative. USers, your school system only teaches you about the States. That's wrong, and most USers don't even know it. We don't get told things because of the young people's oppression. You're taught lies to the extent that you aren't even taught. You're not going to have young people's liberation without completely removing the class system. Everything. It's not just about your mom and dad treating you a bit better."

One of my favorite things that I said was, "At this conference and lots of other places in RC, there tend to be more young women than men, and sometimes that makes us feel really desperate. We feel like we have to put our liberation aside as women until we get more men into counseling. This doesn't make sense. The first reason is that as women, we don't need to wait around for other people to do the work we should do, even if it means moving much further ahead than men have figured out how to do -- even if it feels like we're outdoing men or making them feel bad. The second reason is we can't bring young men into the RC Community because we feel like we "need to." It won't work, and it just doesn't make sense. Women won't figure out relationships with men until we decide not to act on the internalized oppression that keeps us from being in charge. People learn counseling through solid relationships.

As young women and men, we need to take men's and women's liberation work very seriously. Boys and girls are taught that we aren't important parts of these liberation movements. Our thinking is crucial to making sure they go well."

Reported from the notes of Alysia Tate, by Ayana Morse


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00